Last weekend a threatening January thaw brought warmth, rain and klister to the EISA ski scene for the Colby Carnival. Things could not have been more different a week later, as the University of New Hampshire hosted their carnival under frigid temps in Jackson, NH.
With these races featuring some of the strongest competition in the country, both days of racing were attended by several professional teams and athletes. Though they had no impact on the collegiate scoring, racers from the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, SMS T2 and CXC added even more depth to the EISA circuit with their presence this weekend.
Races began with 5 and 10-kilometer classic races on Friday, followed by the first mass start events of the season: 20k for men and 15k for women. All races took place on “The Wave”, Jackson’s 5k homologated race course. The Wave features a brutal, kilometer-long climb immediately out of the stadium, followed by technical and twisting sections to the high point of the course. To reach the stadium far below, racers must navigate multiple sections of corkscrew downhills, including the flight-inducing rollers that give the trail its name.
Friday: 5/10k Classic
Frigid overnight temps below zero made for hard tracks and easy kick-waxing during Friday’s races. Lung capacity is always a major part of nordic racing, but the solid cold snow during these races evened out many of The Wave’s difficult descents; fitness would come into play in a big way for these races.
The aerobic factor was certainly working for UVM’s Jorgen Grav on Friday. After starting his season outside the top ten in this same event last weekend, Grav led both laps on Friday en route to a commanding victory.
In second place, nearly 30 seconds behind Grav, was Dartmouth’s consistent podium presence Silas Talbot. Finishing third overall was SMS T2 racer and former Dartmouth standout Eric Packer. Third in the collegiate ranks was Per Lindgren, who gave host team UNH a spot on the podium at their own event.
The Catamount men would take the top team score in the event, helped to victory by Cole Morgen (4th) and Jack Hegman (5th). Dartmouth followed next, with UNH in third.
Temperatures warmed slightly for the women’s race, and the sun became a fixture in the valley and stadium area. Times were tighter, but it was another consistent UVM classic skier, Anja Gruber, who took top honors overall. Gruber finished 9 seconds ahead of former Catamount Caitlin Patterson, now racing for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP).
Finishing third overall, and second in the collegiate ranks, was UVM’s Linda Danvind-Malm. Danvind-Malm was followed by two more guest racers: young SMS standout Katherine Ogden in fourth, and SMS T2’s (and former Dartmouth racer) Erika Flowers in fifth.
Dartmouth’s Annie Hart finished next, and was the third collegiate competitor.
Despite taking the top two spots, UVM was likely hindered by the absence of Stephanie Kirk (currently preparing for World Junior Championships in Europe) and finished second to Dartmouth in the event’s team score thanks to Hart and her teammates Cory Stock (4th) and Carly Wynn (11th).
Saturday: 15/20K Freestyle Mass Start
Hard, fast conditions remained consistent for Saturday’s mass start events. After handily winning every regular-season mass start last season, this event would be the first skate race in over a year that would not be won by UVM’s Scott Patterson. In Europe for the U23 World Championships (along with Middlebury standout Ben Lustgarten), Patterson’s absence opened the door for a new top freestyle performer. A relatively large lead pack of about 10-15 athletes remained together for a good portion of the four-lap race before stringing out in the last 5 kilometers. In a sprint finish it was Pat O’Brien (CGRP) who claimed first place ahead of Eric Packer (SMS T2).
There was a notable Big Green presence in the front of the field: Both O’Brien and Packer are former Dartmouth racers, and it was two current Darmouth racers who finished next. Silas Talbot was victor in the collegiate race, with second place going to newcomer Fabian Stocek. Rogan Brown gave UVM a continued presence on the podium in third.
While the Dartmouth men handily won the team event, Canadian competitors Université Laval snuck ahead of UVM by a single point, finishing second on the strength of their racers Touchette (6th), Gregoire (14th) and Fontaine (24th).
The women’s race broke apart more quickly, with a group of three racers vying for the win ahead of the field. The previous day’s champion, Anja Gruber (UVM), spent much of the race with Caitlin Patterson (GCRP) and Erika Flowers (SMS T2) nipping at her ski tails. A few racers, such as Dartmouth’s Annie Hart and Middlebury’s Kelsey Phinney, gave chase early, but before long it became clear that the overall podium would no doubt contain Gruber, Patterson and Flowers.
If her brother Scott was not present to contend for the men’s race, Caitlin made sure the Patterson family took home at least one skate victory on the day, biding her time and attacking late to move ahead of Gruber. Flowers claimed third overall.
For the collegiate competitors, Annie Hart (DAR) took second. Despite not earning an individual victory at this point, Hart has yet to finish off the podium in EISA races so far this season. Behind Hart was Linda Danvind-Malm. UVM’s double-podium presence was not enough to overcome the strength of Dartmouth’s Corey Stock (4th) and Emily Hannah (5th) in the team score. By placing 4 racers in spots 9-12, the Middlebury women took third in the team score.
Full results, both overall and collegiate-only, can be found at Bart Timing
Racing continues next Saturday and Sunday with the annual combined UVM Carnival/Eastern Cup in Stowe, VT
Adam Terko is the assistant coach of the St. Lawrence University Ski Team